Buz Cooper, MD 1936 – 2016

Richard (Buz) Cooper, MD, passed away on January 15, 2016.  During more than 50 years as a physician, he practiced hematology and oncology, conducted experimental hematology research, directed a cancer center (at Penn), was dean of a medical school (at the Medical College of Wisconsin), led a health policy institute (also at Wisconsin) and initiated a workforce center (at NYiT).  Over the past 15 years, his efforts were focused on critical issues in health care policy related principally to the demand for physicians and other health care professionals and the forces that drive health care spending. Through this journey, he rediscovered the essential role of professionalism in health care and the central importance of poverty  in the growth of health care spending.


Most recently, Buz was Director of the Center for the Future of the Healthcare Workforce at New York Institute of Technology and a Senior Fellow in the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics at the University of Pennsylvania.  He was graduated from Washington University School of Medicine in 1961 and received his training in internal medicine, hematology and oncology at the Harvard Medical Unit of the Boston City Hospital and the National Cancer Institute. Following two years on the faculty of the Harvard Medical School, Dr. Cooper became Chief of the Hematology Section in the Department of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania and subsequently Director of Penn’s Cancer Center, positions he held for 14 years. In 1985 he moved to the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, where he served as Executive Vice President and Dean for nine years and as the Director of the Medical College’s Health Policy Institute for an additional eleven years. In 2005, Dr. Cooper returned to the University of Pennsylvania as a Professor of Medicine and Senior Fellow in the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics.

Dr. Cooper was a scholar in both hematology and health policy. In the years prior to his becoming dean in 1985, he published extensively on topics dealing with hematology, ranging from basic studies of membrane structure and the pathophysiology of hemolytic anemia to clinical studies of cancer therapy. Dr. Cooper’s more recent work in health policy has centered on the health care workforce, particularly physician supply, and the role that poverty plays in runaway health care costs. His principal contribution was the development of the “Trend Model” for projecting the future demand for physicians. This model, which is built around long-term economic and demographic trends, led Dr. Cooper to champion the notion of impending physician shortages and call for remedial actions, positions that most major organizations now support. His recent work focused on finding solutions to the problem of physician shortages through changes in undergraduate and graduate medical education and on rebalancing the dependency of the US on international medical graduates. His book “Poverty and the Myths of Health Care Reform” (Johns Hopkins University Press) written in the last two years of his life and published just months after his death in 2016, is a data-rich argument that poverty rather than waste and physician inefficiency is the primary driver of the country’s runaway health care costs.

More About Buz
A Tribute by Philip Miller
In Memoriam: Penn/LDI’s Richard ‘Buz’ Cooper
The Afterlife of a Controversial Scientific Debate
Ongoing Controversies in Allocating Our Health-Care Resources
Physician Surplus or Shortage? Let’s Play Hardball
Poverty Major Driver in Health Care Spending